Learning Soft Skills - Become Better in Communication With Friends, Family, and Colleagues
Hard skills could get you an interview. Still, you need soft skills to get - and keep - the job.
This interesting comparison came up during one of my career coaching sessions as we discussed the form of an application letter. Hard skills are related to specific technical knowledge and training we possess.
On the other hand, soft skills help us work well with others and achieve goals as leaders or as a team. This is why we often call them people skills.
Because of their immense importance, I've decided to dedicate the next five posts to exploring and describing some of the top soft skills, starting with communication.
Other articles bring tips on developing skills in:
In this article:
What Is Communication?
The root of the word "communication" in Latin is communicare, which means to share or make common (1).
Simply said, communication is the process of understanding and sharing meaning, transmitting or exchanging information. However, it is more than just an oral expression of our thoughts, ideas, and messages. Communication can also be:
- written; printed and digital media such as articles, books, magazines, websites or emails,
- visual; using logos, maps, charts or graphs, and
- non-verbal; body language, gestures, tone and pitch of voice.
As you've probably noticed in practice, communication is often a combination of several of these.
In theory, different authors (2, 3) list similar elements of the communication process, and these are mostly:
However, when it comes to communicating in our private lives or business, we are often less interested in theory. Instead, what matters is ensuring that our communications generate the desired results.
Communication Skills in Private Life
Communication is one of the most vital aspects of our everyday lives - from careful negotiations with your teenagers to talking with in-laws to discussions with your partner.
Many things can get in the way of good communication, such as:
- Assuming that we know what others are thinking and expecting that others know what we are thinking.
- Thinking about what we want to say instead of listening to what others are saying.
- Assuming that others share our perspective or that our view is the only correct one.
The interesting thing is that, even though our communication skills start developing before we're born, it can take a lifetime to master them.
Simply said, communication is natural for us. Successful communication, on the other hand, needs practice. And practising should start in the earliest days.
In this article, you can read about how children learn communication.
Essential Communication Skills for any Workplace
Communication skills at a workplace are highly valued under normal circumstances, and with the rise of ZOOM meetings and distance learning, these skills take on new importance.
In what follows, learn more about how to develop communication skills because effective communication can provide knowledge and mutual understanding; it sets direction and helps to act appropriately.
Tips for developing communication skills
- Active listening
Pay attention. Give the speaker undivided attention by removing all distractions such as mobile phones, television, emails, etc. Also, paying attention means putting aside distracting thoughts or chatting with others in a group setting. Finally, active listening is about listening, not mentally preparing a rebuttal while others are speaking.
- Conveying attention
Use your body language to show the speaker that you're hearing what they're saying. For example, look at the speaker directly, smile, and nod occasionally. Keep the conversation going by using small verbal comments like "Yes" and "Aha".
Active listening also means showing that we understand the message. You can do this by paraphrasing what the speaker is saying. Reflect back by saying, "If I understood correctly, you're saying that..." "What I'm hearing is..." "Sounds like you're saying that..."
As mentioned above, one of the obstacles to successful communication is our assumptions. Ask questions to clarify the message, "What exactly do you mean by..." "Is this what you're saying?" "Could you please elaborate on...?"
- Waiting to disclose your opinion
Interrupting won't contribute to communication. Instead, it might make the speaker upset and frustrated. Also, interruptions limit the full understanding of the message. The way to avoid this is by waiting for the speaker to finish. Then, once the message has been sent, give feedback by questioning, paraphrasing, or answering.
Communication is like the grease that makes any relationship, business or personal, run smoothly.
By employing these active listening techniques, you can improve your role as a parent, team leader, or team member. Learning these skills will help you understand others and be understood.
Suggested reading on the topic:
(1) Weekley, E. (1967). An etymological dictionary of modern English (Vol. 1, p. 338). New York, NY: Dover Publications.
(2) Hunt, G.(1980). Communication Skills in the Organization. N.J.: Prentice- Hall, Inc.
(3) Hargie, O., Dickson, D., Tourish, D. (2000). Communication Skills for Effective Management, N.Y. : Palgrave Macmillan.